Tales Of Leo Attiel ~Portrait Of The Headless Prince~ Volume 3 Chapter 1

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One afternoon, towards the end of winter, Sovereign-Prince Magrid Attiel of Atall had gone out for a stroll accompanied by Kirsten, the princess-consort, and ten or so attendants.

Magrid had originally intended to go hunting after finishing the morning's work, but Kirsten, his wife, had all of a sudden announced that she wished to join him, so the plan had been changed to a walk along the riverbank northwest of the capital, Tiwana. The sovereign-prince now sat on a hill that sloped gently upwards from within the wood that ran along the riverside.

Next to him was Stark Barsley. As a member of a long-serving family of hereditary retainers, he had established himself at the castle in his territory, but since he had already retired, he occasionally visited Tiwana to express his grat.i.tude to the sovereign-prince - who was younger than him - or perhaps to come and tease him.

"His Highness Leo, is it…" Stark spoke the name in a relaxed tone of voice. "I couldn't help feeling surprised. Hmm, while I would have said that both were mild-tempered, he was a boy who did not give me quite as good an impression as his older brother - … but from there to thinking that he would move troops behind Your Majesty's back… Truly, the blood of our ruling House is not to be taken lightly."

"This is no time for you to be so nonchalant. Stark, won't you take charge of him?"

"Recently, I've been spending all my time fishing from an open boat in the lake. Your suggestion is not appealing enough to give up that pleasure for."

"How can you be so heartless? Father relied on you more than anyone," the sovereign-price pleaded with a man who was older than his own father.

The one Stark was being asked to take charge of was Leo Attiel.

- A month after the affair at Conscon Temple had come to an end, Florrie turned sixteen, and Leo eighteen three months after that. There had been rumours that the wedding between them might take place on one of their two birthdays, but both dates had pa.s.sed without anything happening.

Leo himself had said that, "The church is only halfway built, so it isn't the right time yet." And also, "My birthday? The priests of the Cross Faith say that it's an unlucky day." Because of it repeatedly being put off, an official date had yet to be decided.

Leo Attiel.

Until a few months earlier, it wasn't at all clear that the people living in the capital, Tiwana, had even heard his name. Nowadays, there was no one in all of the Princ.i.p.ality of Atall who did not know of the second-born prince.

After the events surrounding Conscon and Allion, as well as Dytiann, there were two major schools of thought concerning Lord Leo.

The first was to see him as a hero. The voices speaking in his favour were mainly those of the people, and Leo's popularity had soared in the outskirts of the capital. The story of how he led his troops to save Conscon, and there killed Hayden Swift, the commander of the Allian forces, became a topic for popular ill.u.s.trated storybooks and for the improvised songs of minstrels, and before long, even plays were being performed about it.

As the plays became ever more popular, their performances tended to be staged even at shrines, which caused some problems. The main shrine in Tiwana worshipped 'Iron Saint' Lévy-Rahan, but Leo, the hero of the story, had, through a series of events, converted to the Cross Faith. As such, the priests frowned at having a 'pagan' tale performed on their premises.

Yet Leo was also, of course, a member of the sovereign-prince's family. If the shrine refused to stage the play, it would probably give a bad impression to those in power. Accordingly, the play was allowed to be performed as long as the script glossed over Leo's religious conversion. It was said that the initial performances were so popular that people couldn't even get through the shrine's gates anymore.

Amongst the commoners, most people thus cheered for Leo and praised his name.

There was, however, a second school of thought when it came to Leo - one which regarded this 'rash and thoughtless prince' as nothing short of dangerous. That opinion was mostly whispered among the va.s.sal-lords and n.o.ble retainer families.

Sovereign-Prince Magrid struggled to offer a convincing explanation about what had happened. If he explained that Leo had acted completely on his own - not only when personally leading soldiers to Conscon, but also when meeting the king of Allion shortly thereafter - he would be showing weakness by revealing that the princely house was not internally united.

On the other hand, if he claimed that everything had been done according to his own intentions, he would probably bear the brunt of criticism again. "While it is all very nice that Allion ended up giving in, the sovereign-prince once again arbitrarily brought the entire country to the brink of disaster" - something along those lines.

Just like the troupe staging the play, the sovereign-prince had to rack his brains to find a good way of keeping the details hazy. But not only was Magrid not a skilful orator, he also had no one that he could consult with on this matter. As a result, he ended up sounding evasive. Which was what he actually was being, but, more importantly, that evasiveness also shed light on the very facts that he was trying to hide.

Although n.o.body could possibly imagine that Lord Leo had acted entirely on his own from start to finish, theories and complaints still flew around.

Could it be that the young lord was so convinced that the temple needed to be saved that he actually disregarded His Majesty's orders?

But any way you look at it, it was the prince's first campaign. He didn't have any experience with military command. Then maybe it was only luck that allowed him to defeat the enemy general. He was playing an incredibly risky game. You can't move soldiers based on nothing but a chivalrous spirit, without the light of wisdom. One wrong step, and all of Atall would have been in flames right about now.

The va.s.sal-lords got onboard with that speculation, but rather than saying that they deeply believed that Leo Attiel was dangerous, it would be closer to the truth to say that they bitterly resented him.

After the events at Conscon Temple, Leo once addressed the va.s.sal-lords about the need for a permanent army. When Leo had previously raised the issue, stories were widely repeated even among the populace about how the va.s.sal-lords had practically laughed in his face; now however, the ones being laughed at and criticised were those same lords.

"They're all completely blind."

"It's clear that the prince has far more foresight than any of them. If they had listened to His Highness' pet.i.tion, the prince wouldn't of had to suffer all alone."

There was no end to those voices.

The sovereign-prince could ignore neither the displeasure and sense of impending crisis felt by the n.o.bles, nor the vocal disagreement of the people. Which was why Magrid had summoned Stark Barsley, who had once won fame as a loyal retainer to Magrid's father, to Tiwana. The original intention had been to invite him hunting, but as that had been changed to taking a stroll, it was while they were leisurely standing shoulder to shoulder on top of the hill that he sought Stark's wisdom.

"What should I do?"

There is not time enough to talk here about all of Stark Barsley's career. As the illegitimate son of a n.o.ble house that he had no mind to inherit, he had already left the country by the time he was a young man. He had wandered, of course, to Allion and Shazarn, and had then extended his steps further west, travelling beyond the Grand Duchy of Ende and the territories of the Imperial Dynasty of Mephius, all the way to the western countries of Tauran.

According to one theory, he had worked as a mercenary in Tauran and had been made a slave in Mephius.

It was coming up to thirty years since he had inherited the family keep from his younger brother, who had died of illness. Although he seemed like someone who really should write his own autobiography, now that he was nearing his seventies, his countenance had grown so gentle that his once harsh way of life seemed almost impossible to believe.

Now as well, he spoke with a smile on his long face.

"Entrust soldiers to the young lord." The sovereign-prince looked understandably sour. "To all outward appearances, the young lord obeyed Your Majesty's orders to repel Allion and rescue Conscon. In recent years, Atall has not pulled off any other military feat equal to it. It would look unnatural for you to cast him away. Therefore, as a reward for the young lord's great deeds, it would be fine to grant him soldiers fulfilling a position close to that of royal guards… right, you could have them be 'personal guards'. With the voice of popular discontent currently on the rise, even the lords won't be able to wriggle out sending out money or men either... It should be possible to organise a fairly grand unit without emptying the Treasury."

"But," the crease had not vanished from Magrid's brow, "Although it's vexing to admit it, that d.a.m.ned Leo outmanoeuvred me and turned his blade against Allion. If I grant him troops, he might grow more and more arrogant, and pose a greater threat to Atall than ever before."

As he groaned, the sovereign-prince wore an expression that he rarely showed his other retainers. It was the expression of a young man clinging to an older person. "And so," was all the sovereign-prince said, with an air of broaching the topic of negotiation, before asking Stark to take Leo in hand.

"If I grant him soldiers, Leo will one day also become the master of a castle keep. So Stark, would you be willing to hammer into my son the preparedness and mental att.i.tude needed for the ruling family, while at the same time keeping an eye on Leo?"

He asked with his head bowed, but Stark did not look particularly inclined to respond favourably.

Hmm, thought Stark, while striking a nonchalant att.i.tude, His Highness Lord Leo? You can't even go fishing at some backwater pond without hearing nothing but rumours about him. …It might not be bad to meet him at least once.

This wasn't because he was intending to act as his mentor, but simply because he had been thinking for a while now that Leo was an interesting person.

He was a n.o.ble who had been in service since the era of the previous sovereign-prince. In this era, the ruler placed great trust in him, and he frequently served as a diplomat. In that position, one did not merely convey the ruler's thoughts when in a foreign country, and there were plenty of times when one had to rely on one's own judgement, so, naturally, those chosen for the task were all people whose political stance was aligned with the ruler's.

Stark had been a friend of the previous sovereign-prince, and he was well-versed in gauging the mood in Allion to the west, Shazarn to the north, and the various countries to the east that were tied together by the Cross Faith.

In his time, Atall had experienced virtually no wars with the outside. There had been times when relations with the neighbouring countries had temporarily deteriorated and each side had taken up position in the border regions, but he could count on the fingers of one hand the number of actual battles that had been fought.

Stark himself had fought against marauders - which included bands of mercenaries and members of powerful clans chased out of their own countries - who had broken into his territory. There had even been an episode in which he had recaptured his own castle after it had been taken from him. Not even he, however, could conceive of crossing swords with a foreign country, and on top of that, with Allion of all places.

Yet Leo Attiel had accomplished that inconceivable feat.

Very interesting, thought Stark. But also, very dangerous.

Stark had gradually reached his fill of leaving his old friend's son in suspense. "Taking charge of him is a different matter," he said by way of preface, "but I might as well meet Lord Leo. Although I'm not at all sure that this up-and-coming hero will want to listen to what an old sack of bones has to say."

For now at least, he offered words to please the sovereign-prince.

Since the conversation had reached its conclusion, they walked to where Kirsten, the princess-consort, was sitting beneath a parasol held up by ladies' maids. Since the sovereign-prince fell into conversation with her, Stark took a discreet step backwards.

It had been quite a while since he had last seen the princess-consort. Since she only had a three-year age difference with Magrid, she must have been nearing the end of her thirties, yet she was still as lovely as ever. She was so slender that it was hard to believe she had born three children, and both her expression and her bearing indicated her deeply modest and reserved personality.

Stark, however, had been observing the princess-consort since her youth, and he felt that the corners of her eyes twitch convulsively. As her emotions piled up within her without ever showing on her face, there was a danger of them exploding. Stark had known any number of women who were like that, and, in a way, the princess-consort fit into that mould.

Actually, the Princess-Consort Kirsten had once had a bout of hysteria that was still talked about within the palace. It had been barely a few years after the birth of her eldest son, Branton. To ensure his son's education, Magrid had decided not to have him raised in the palace at Tiwana, but to instead have the child fostered by one of the long-serving, hereditary retainers. This n.o.ble's territory was not particularly far from Tiwana, but Kirsten had nonetheless vehemently opposed the decision.

Kirsten was by birth the daughter of a family of va.s.sals in service to a different house of high-ranked hereditary retainers. Her father had died young, however, and the fight to succeed him as family head had not been gentle. Their liege had just barely managed to put an end to it by personally acting as arbitrator, but by that time, her mother had also pa.s.sed away.

Magrid had fallen in love with her at first sight when he was still a prince but, perhaps in part because of her early history, she had remained extremely shy and reticent and ever since her marriage, she had always found one reason or another to avoid showing herself in public whenever possible.

The princely house had a long history, and its customs influenced every aspect of daily life, so it was easy to imagine that she had found it suffocating at the ceremonious court where she knew virtually n.o.body.

Thereupon, the long-awaited eldest son had been born.

For Kirsten, the existence of this baby who shared her own blood gave her place to belong, and must have seemed almost like her one and only ally, given that there were so few people in her life that she could trust. When the child was separated from her, she showed pa.s.sion and fury such as she never had before. She hounded the sovereign, her voice shrill, and wrecked one room after another within the palace.

Most of the retainers were unfortunately unsympathetic towards her. "The princess-consort lacks awareness as a member of the family of the sovereign-prince," said her those around her, showering her in their harsh criticism.

Although Kirsten's rampage lasted no more than three days, the affair cast an even deeper shadow than before over the princess-consort. Several years after coming to Tiwana, she had finally and with difficulty managed to make friends, but now she utterly cut off all relations with them and stayed cloistered within the palace all day long.

The birth of the second prince, Leo, brought Kirsten no comfort. On the contrary, that time, the mother gave the impression of being hesitant to get close to her son. She was probably feeling cautious, thought Stark. Because she was afraid that he would immediately be taken away from her, she would not allow herself to love her son.

Because of what had happened with their eldest son, Magrid had relented with Leo and had left him in her care, yet Kirsten failed, so to speak, to love her second son. He was almost entirely looked after by nursemaids, and although they occasionally met each other, the relationship between mother and child was strangely formal and distant.


The fact that Kirsten was now more or less able to show herself and to be at ease in the full sunlight was without a doubt thanks to the birth of the third prince, Roy, who was currently running up the hill as he called out to her.

Right after Roy Attiel had been born, Kirsten had held her child close.

"He has exactly the same eyes as my father. And his mouth and nose are the living image of my mother," she had said through her sobs.

As though in compensation of her eldest son, Branton, who had been stolen away from her love, and of her second son, Leo, whom she has failed to love, Kirsten doted on her youngest child, Roy. She had even claimed that the souls of her parents, whom she had lost young, lived in Roy, and she would not be parted from him even for a moment.

Roy had been raised receiving not only his mother's love, but that of the entire palace. He was friendly and intelligent, and there was no one who would not feel affectionate towards him.

"Oh dear, what have you been up to, Roy? You're covered in mud."

Even now, when she was admonishing him, Kirsten's eyes watched him fondly.

Roy Attiel had been picking flowers at the foot of the hill with the ladies' maids, and had made them into a garland. When his mother bent forward a little, he placed it around her neck.

"Oh my, how lovely."

Kirsten and the ladies' maids all smiled, and even Magrid turned a gazed filled with love towards his third son.

How calculated. Stark was the only one who was critical of the third-born prince, Lord Roy. He isn't a child of five or six. If I'm not mistaken, His Highness Roy is around fourteen or fifteen. A boy who's old enough to have been on his third campaign, making a flower garland for his mother. And to get himself all muddy on top of it… he really is slick.

Appearance-wise, he closely resembled Kirsten and was as lovely as her. His boyish face still gave a childlike impression, but, in a year or two, it would surely start troubling the women around him.

Stark had also heard that he was good at his studies. Although his mother indulged him and frequently took him away from his training in martial arts, so that he often took breaks from it, it was said that he was not incompetent with a sword.

Yet all for all that Roy's eyes were sparkling with joy, Stark could tell that his aim had been to please the adults. Rather than intelligence, he gave off a whiff of cunning.

Since he's always being fawned on at his mother's side, his tendency to earn favour with the adults is just going to get stronger and stronger. His abilities aren't bad; it would probably have been best if he had been fostered out, like His Highness Branton was.

Despite having those thoughts, Stark had no intention of suggesting any such thing to Magrid. He did not want to be told, "Well then, since you're retired, you have plenty of time to take him in," nor did he want to ha.s.sle of having the princess-consort bear a grudge against him.

Stark was aware that he had already given plenty to his country, and he was not inclined to work himself to the bone any further for it. For the same reason, he did not wish to get dragged into every kind of trouble that appeared. And since he was as he was, in truth, he really didn't want to have to take charge of Leo, either.

"I might as well meet Lord Leo," had said Stark, but in actual fact, it wasn't until a month later that they came face to face. In the meantime, the creation of the 'personal guards' that he had suggested was given the go ahead.

Since it had been authorised by the ruler, Magrid, neither the n.o.bles nor the va.s.sal-lords could object, and they had to fork out money and men, just as Leo himself had once badgered them to do.

Percy, an Atallese n.o.ble, and Kuon, a mercenary, both of whom had been following Leo and whose positions were close to those of va.s.sals, were also formally integrated into the unit.

The second son of the House of Leegan is being a fool - Kuon was one thing, since he was a rootless drifter, but there was a lot of malicious gossiping about Percy. He's letting himself be dragged along at the prince's whim. That's no way to get on in life.

The rumours weren't necessarily wrong, either. Leo certainly seemed to be engrossed in military affairs, but what were the odds that Atall would plunge into more foreign campaigns from now on? Even though these were war-torn times, there was no territory that this tiny country could hope to aim for, sandwiched as it was between the two great powers that were Allion and Dytiann.

In other words, there was very little chance that Leo would perform any spectacular feats from here on. And unlike the Royal Guards, which conferred considerable status even if one had no distinguished war records, this newly-established 'personal guard' had neither history nor prestige.

Percy himself did not find it unnatural that there were rumours about his having bad luck. Naturally, his family was against the whole thing. His father repeatedly suggested different courses for Percy's future, but he eventually gave up once he realised that his son was firmly determined.

His mother was more persistent than his father.

"What does Lord Gimlé think about it?" she asked bluntly.

Gimlé Gloucester, one of the va.s.sal-lords, was the father of Percy's fiancée, Liana. Speaking of Gimlé, when the request for reinforcements had reached Tiwana from Conscon Temple, he had made it very clear that he was against sending them any help, stating that "it has nothing to do with us." Consequently, when he later learned that the sovereign-prince had one-sidedly decided to send soldiers to the temple, Gimlé had visited Tiwana for the express purpose of voicing his strong criticism of his ruler.

Percy had been among those reinforcements.

On top of that, Gimlé did not seem at all happy about the whole chain of events that had led to Lord Leo driving back Allion's army.

"How is this heroic? It only on the surface that things miraculously ended well; in fact, he's sown huge seeds of discontent in Allion. And also in Dytiann, which had its troops annihilated," this time as well, he forthrightly criticised the princely house.

When at that point, Percy joined Lord Leo's personal guards, Gimlé was quite naturally not going to hold any positive emotions towards his daughter's fiancé. And in all truth, Percy's own feelings grew complicated whenever he thought of Liana.

I get where my parents are coming from, he sometimes thought. At the moment, I'm like a child who is delirious from fever. I can't calm down. There are just too many things going on. So I should plant my feet back on the ground for a while, and reconsider again after cooling my head for a bit.

It would be fine for him to become an a.s.sistant to his older brother, who would one day be head of the family. Enlisting in the prestigious Royal Guards would also be good. As would be receiving a subsidiary castle from Lord Gimlé and going to live there with Liana.

But when all those possible paths leading to bright, golden futures were confronted with the thought that I will walk alongside Lord Leo, they immediately faded into colourlessness, cracked, and were crushed and scattered into a thousand tiny pieces.

There were certainly no mapped-out paths to where travelling with Lord Leo would take him. There would be chaos. There would be ups and downs. Perhaps his future itself would be shortened as a result. And that was why Percy thought it was interesting.

Compared to burying himself in a predictable future, it would be far more interesting to walk towards an unknown one, following a path that was shrouded in darkness so thick that he could not see even a single step ahead, and in which Leo Attiel was the only guiding light.

The young Percy's heart swayed time and again but, in the end, and to the very last, that one thought did not change. Taking several dozen retainers of the Leegan family with him - most of whom had fought alongside him at Conscon Temple - as a gift, he enlisted into the personal guard.

A ceremony was held on the day of the guards' inauguration. Several hundred soldiers, led by Leo, who was clad in brand-new armour, marched in a parade into Tiwana Palace. Leo stopped before Magrid, who was sitting on the throne in the audience chamber, removed his helmet, and placed it at his feet, while behind him, all of the soldiers knelt in unison.

Magrid rose from the throne and stepped forward. Leo knelt before him and took hold of a precious sword, inlaid with gold ornamentation, the tip of which he pressed against his own chest. Magrid placed his hand on the hilt. Leo did not move. If my life displeases my lord, please push this blade forward and end it, was the declaration being made.

Instead of thrusting the sword into his son's heart, Magrid stooped and kissed the hilt. After which, he once more took hold of sword and returned it to the scabbard at Leo's waist. The meaning of those actions was I am entrusting you with a part of the power I hold as sovereign.

The n.o.bles and high-ranking commanders who had gathered in the audience hall in their ceremonial clothes all clapped. With that, the Personal Guards were formally instated. - Though this became something of an object of mockery in Tiwana Palace.

First of all, although Leo Attiel wore golden armour which covered him from tip to toe, it did not suit his slender silhouette. Nor was it just an outward impression: it actually wasn't fitted to his size. Normally, the helmet and armour should have been especially made to order for Leo, but he himself had turned down the idea, saying that "It's only a formality. I don't want too much being spent."

Instead, as there were any number of old sets of ceremonial armour lying unused in the treasury, he had chosen suitable pieces from among them, but since there had been no rehearsals before the ceremony, all sorts of flaws were discovered right before the actual performance. The torso was a little tight, whereas around the waist and from his ankles down, it was too loose, and cloth had to be stuffed into the c.h.i.n.ks. Because of that, however, Leo's gait as he walked was a little strange. Every time he took a step forward, the helmet noticeably jiggled up and down, and it comically looked as though it would go flying off at any moment.

Nor was it just Leo: the soldiers also attracted ridicule. Since they were a mish-mashed unit which had been hastily cobbled together, they marched without any kind of coordination, and on top of that, some of them had been mere farmers or merchants until just very recently. It was their first time setting foot inside the palace, so all of their attention was taken by wondering at the interior and at the crowds of people, which led to them accidentally and repeatedly kicking whoever was in front of them, prompting those around them to want to laugh.

"Oh my, truly a gathering of mighty warriors." Sarcastic comments flew.

And while everyone laughed, it felt somehow as though they were returning to their senses after having seen an illusion. When they had first heard of how Leo had defeated Allion, it had been like something out of a heroic tableau, but now he was before them in the flesh and in armour, accompanied by soldiers who were obviously amateurs.

It seems that just as the rumours said, there must have actually been very little fighting.

Maybe it's true that Allion retreated when they realised that Atall was taking part and that Dytiann was prepared to intervene.

They lost interest.

Stark Barsley was also within the crowd. Once the inauguration ceremony had ended, he headed for the antechamber which Leo had withdrawn to. Just as he was about to offer his greetings -

"Oh! Lord Stark. It's been a long time," flushed and sweaty, and having just removed his armour, Leo sat up.

They had no seen each other since he had been sent to Allion as a hostage. For a while, they exchanged stories about when Leo was young.

"Ah, but Your Highness is no longer the little master from back then. Your Highness Leo, once again, many congratulations on both your recent military exploits and on the inauguration of your Personal Guards."

"Thank you very much."

"Well then, now that you have soldiers of your own, what does our gallant Lord Leo intend to do next?" Stark broached the main topic on a joking tone. "Will you be delivering the finishing blow to Allion? Or will you be seizing Shazarn, now that rumours say the country is in turmoil?"

"Hmm, indeed. First of all…"

"First of all?"

"I'll start with building work."

"Building work?"

As the startled Stark watched, Leo finished changing his clothes and started to leave the antechamber.

Well, we can continue to talk while eating somewhere, thought Stark, as he hurriedly chased after Leo.

"W-Where are you heading, Your Highness?"

"To Guinbar."


"There are a number of building works that need to be done. Sir Stark, thank you for going out of your way to be here today. Let's arrange an opportunity to talk together at leisure at some point."

Leo left the palace with the soldiers who had just taken part in the ceremony and Stark was left reeling from surprise. The 'building work' that Leo had mentioned was the construction of barracks to house the hastily established Personal Guards. The first thing to do was to have them built in the two castle towns of Tiwana and Guinbar. While lodging there, they would be a.s.signed tasks such as undergoing military training, acting as guards, going on patrols and so on. In one go, they had essentially become professional soldiers.

Up until then, every time there was a war, Atall would hire mercenaries, call up militias, or have the various n.o.ble Houses send a few dozen of their retainers. Aristocrats who held lands had to call up soldiers from the villages and fortresses dotted around their domains, which created problems in terms of coordination and mobility in an emergency. Leo had long observed the problem, which was why he intended to have his soldiers live in groups throughout the castle towns, and have them perform daily combat training with their units, in an attempt to develop a mobilisation system that was close to Allion's in terms of skill and efficiency.

It was clear that Leo hoped to one day extend the system throughout all of Atall, and that he intended to first test it out by using his Personal Guards. This would, of course, cost money. Which was why Leo had pleaded with the va.s.sal-lords, and also why Stark had suggested to the sovereign-prince that they be asked to contribute, so as not to overburden the national treasury.

Most of the n.o.bles forked out the money, albeit unwillingly, as I mentioned earlier. There were some, however, who flatly refused to do so.

These were Darren Actica and Oswell Taholin.

"They've rejected the hero's request again…" with just that, their reputation plummeted in their home areas. Yet when the order to contribute had come from the sovereign-prince, they responded with the same plausible excuses that they had used to reject Leo's plea - "We would very much like to cooperate, but the financial situation in our domains is regrettably strained. We will take part later, when we have a bit more surplus."

After the ceremony, Leo behaved himself. He went back and forth several times between Tiwana, the capital, and Guinbar, Savan Roux's territory. He inspected the construction of the barracks in both towns, kept an eye on how building-work was progressing on the church at Guinbar, and personally went to observe the soldiers as they trained until the sweat was pouring off of them.

Stark would occasionally accompany him. Leo naturally had his own thoughts about this elderly retiree who was suddenly drawing close to him, but he never openly said a thing.

"You've come again?" he greeted him. "The elderly seem to have plenty of time on their hands. I would love to hear about your experiences and learn from them, Sir Stark. But please keep them to a length that won't bore the young."

Their relationship had even turned into one which allowed him to make those kinds of jokes. And yet -

He really isn't very good at shortening the distance with people. Stark inwardly appraised him. Maybe it's because this comes after seeing His Highness Roy. It shows in stark contrast how poor he is at socialising.

Leo did not only travel between Tiwana and Guinbar: very soon after his Personal Guards were instated, he had gone once to Conscon Temple. He had wanted to see how it was doing after Bishop Rogress' death and now that it was working to rebuild. At the same time, he had gone to see Camus, the warrior monk who had fought against Allion alongside him, and Camus' little sister, Sarah.

"It is good to see you in good health, Your Highness."

Camus had been promoted to being an aide to the temple's bishop. There didn't, however, seem to be any particular difference in his appearance, including in the clothes he wore. He still wore chainmail under his monastic robes, and grasped a spear in his hand.

When he heard that Leo had been a.s.signed a personal guard, his eyes sparkled.

"Just what I'd expect of you, Your Highness. You are steadily progressing towards your goal. Well then - I will of course also be joining your troops, right?" he said as if to confirm it.

Leo gave a low hum as he gravelly shook his head.

"You're now a person of importance at the temple. Rather than having me involve you in the trivial, worldly matters, don't you think it would be better for both you yourself and for the temple if you concentrated on its reconstruction, and put all your energy into supporting the new bishop?"

"W-What are you saying? Of course I will give my all to rebuilding the temple and a.s.sisting the bishop, but I am not the sort of man who would begrudge offering my life for you, Prince. If we're talking about the temple's future, then I believe that we must implement the ideals that you once talked about so as to demonstrate our military might to our surroundings, and to build up our influence. For that, I, Camus, am willing to face death as many times as I need to, and I am ready to have my bones crushed in order to repay you the debt we owe you."

"Actually, my big brother finds it boring to be secluded in the temple," shrugged Sarah, who was standing next to him. "Now that he's become such a great man, he leaves all his holy duties to others, and spends his entire time training with his spear. There isn't a single day when you don't see steam rising from his muscles. Honestly, given that he jabs at them so much, just how many times a day do the gates of Heaven open? A thousand times? Or maybe ten thousand?"

"W-W-Who is it that you're saying neglects their holy duties? Even though now that Bishop Rogress has pa.s.sed away, everyone here has carved his last wishes into their heart, and is pushing forward every day… Sarah, you might be my little sister, but you've gone too far."

"Yeah, yeah. Now that you've become so great, you've also become even more pompous than before. Lord Leo, whether it's to the battlefield or to certain death, please take my brother wherever you feel like. It will be refreshing not to have him around hurting my ears."

The prince laughed to see that the two of them were the same as ever.

"I was joking, Camus. What kind of Personal Guards would they even be if you weren't part of them? You've also got your work at the temple, so I'm sure it's going to be tough on you, but I'll be counting on you from here on as well."

Relieved to hear those words, Camus finally cheered up again. He looked as though he might seize his spear at any moment to go and thrust it somewhere a thousand or ten thousand times to release the fiery energy that had been acc.u.mulating inside him, which earned him his sister's heartfelt disgust.

Still, Leo's goals were not confined to observation and meeting his friends again, and he had brought part of his Personal Guards with him. As part of their duties, they would be stationed at the temple and in the outskirts of Guinbar, to allow them to feel the tension of being somewhere where actual combat had taken place.

Nothing actually happened afterwards though, and the hereditary retainers, the va.s.sal-lords and others simply saw it as "the prince is playing around with his new toy."

Having observed Leo from close up, Stark was not as quick as the other n.o.bles to draw that conclusion. With his ever-present relaxed expression, he took the tea that Sarah held out to him.

"Oh my, it was well worth leaving the countryside to be offered tea by such a beautiful nun," his face broke into a smile as he accepted the cup.

It was on that occasion that news reached Atall about Allion and Dytiann, the two countries which lay east and west of it, which were also the two powerhouses whose antagonism had come to head during the battle around Conscon Temple. There had apparently been a number of letters and messengers going back and forth between them, but this time, they had arrived at the point at which a meeting would be held between representatives of both countries. Moreover, those attending would not be n.o.bodies.

For this reason, they would not be meeting in either of their two lands, and it was said that wished to hold the conference in a place halfway between them, in Tiwana, the capital of the Princ.i.p.ality of Atall, a country which was also connected to this issue.

And lastly, both Allion and Dytiann had nominated Leo Attiel as a witness to the meeting.

Time and time again, throughout history, the small countries covering the entire region had been compelled to come together and form an alliance centred around Dytiann Cathedral so as to defend themselves against an outside threat.

About half a century earlier, these countries had joined hands in the face of an invasion from the north. Since the war had dragged on for longer than expected, they were inevitably forced into forming a strong connection and a prolonged alliance. To the outside world, this powerful league of countries, tied together as it was by religion, soon seemed to be a single organisation, and it came to be referred to by others as the "Dytiann Alliance".

Time and time again, throughout history, the small countries covering the entire region had been compelled to come together and form an alliance centred around Dytiann Cathedral so as to defend themselves against an outside threat.

About half a century earlier, these countries had joined hands in the face of an invasion from the north. Since the war had dragged on for longer than expected, they were inevitably forced into forming a strong connection and a prolonged alliance. To the outside world, this powerful league of countries, tied together as it was by religion, soon seemed to be a single organisation, and it came to be referred to by others as the "Dytiann Alliance".

The Papal States expanded from around the cathedral - which, from that point in time, came to be known as the Holy See - and the Church organisation based in those states seized suzerainty over the other countries.

After more than ten years of war, the alliance achieved victory, or at least a respite, against the north. Soon after, however, the Pope succ.u.mbed to illness. This caused repercussions of a different sort from the invasion. Previously, the papal throne had gone no further than providing spiritual and moral guidance, but after the birth of the 'alliance', its authority was no longer merely moral, and it had become the very real ruler of a group of va.s.sal states. Consequently, the struggle for succession to the papacy was now of a completely different nature than it had previously been.

Each country competed both openly and covertly through political influence, military might and information gathering. Before long, a succession of quarrels broke out. The Holy See should have brought them to an end, by sheer force if necessary, but those within it where instead accepting bribes from the various countries, and corruption gradually grew widespread. There were even some cases in which they used the conflicts to build up their own personal funds.

Any who disagreed with this were thrown into secret jails without being given a chance to defend themselves, and were burned at the stake without any official trial.

Popular discontent grew greater and greater. Violence against officials from the Holy See broke out in one town after another. When the Papal States' independent army carried out 'purges' in response, the fires of rebellion against the Holy See finally blazed bright throughout the lands.

The various countries who had fought over who should sit on the papal throne were deeply divided into two camps.

On the one hand, there was the 'Church Faction', which was currying favour with the Holy See by supporting it, and which was trying to seize power as a religious state, on the same model as the current regime. Opposing it was the 'Rebel Army', for whom the enemy was the none other than the present Holy See, and which wanted to establish a new Church power.

Among those who joined the rebellion, be they the great or the humble, there are many who are still praised as heroes even to this day. And the most representative of all were the 'Yanos Brothers', Mordin and Wymer.

They were originally from a poor village, but Wymer, the younger brother, had been given to the local church from a very young age, where he had demonstrated outstanding academic ability. He first became a page to the local lord, then from there he rose to become the secretary to an influential aristocrat, and was eventually employed as a steward in charge of managing estates. Since the n.o.ble family who employed him was part of the anti-Church faction, Wymer had joined the rebellion from the very start, and had manoeuvred to thwart the Church faction's plans and to prevent interventions from other powers. He had also made full use of his inborn talents by launching a propaganda campaign to win over the ma.s.ses.

The manoeuvres that Wymer set up proved effective, and the anti-Church faction obtained tremendous support from the people, while also scoring one victory after another against the Church faction.

At around about that same time, Mordin, who had remained in their native village, caused an uproar. He was still only a mere farmer at the time, but he was built along ma.s.sive lines, and he had always been absurdly strong.

One day, an official who was in with the Holy See came to visit the village, on the pretext of 'making an inspection'. In reality, however, he had come to con the gullible villagers with a fake get-rich-quick scheme; claiming that they would need initial capital to start, he lent them money at illegally high interest rates. When the villagers were unable to repay him, he mercilessly seized their lands and fields. Those who resisted were roughed up by marauding soldiers who had been hired with Church money.

Mordin's father was also among those who were a.s.saulted, and he was beaten until he couldn't stand anymore.

Mordin flew into a rage. He hid himself in the surroundings of the church which served as the marauders' base and, when some unlucky soldiers in groups of one or two happened to be loitering around, he caught them, dragged them into a clump of bushes, and beat them to death, before taking their swords, armour and other equipment from them.

When the soldiers, unsure of what was happening, cautiously showed themselves, Mordin and a few of his friends, wearing the equipment that he had stolen, ambushed them and slaughtered all thirty of them, as well as every one of the officials who had been staying at the church. This provoked the Holy See's fury, and they put together a full-scale subjugation corps.

With no means left with which to fight, Mordin had already resigned himself when his younger brother Wymer heard of his native village's plight, and dispatched a troop from the rebel army.

After an impressive battle and with the help of his powerful allies, Mordin magnificently routed the subjugation corps. Shortly thereafter, he too joined the rebel army.

Just as the younger brother excelled in negotiations and scholarship, the older brother had a military genius that was now allowed to flourish.

He achieved countless exploits on the battlefield. According to rumour, while he himself was talented, he could not shake his air of rugged simplicity, which reeked of country b.u.mpkin, and which seemed completely at odds with his aura of a hard-bitten fighter. This exerted a strange fascination on people, and prominent warriors gathered around him one after another, with the result that Mordin accomplished those feats in battle.

About ten years after the previous pope had died, and five years after the rebellion flared up, those who belonging to the Holy See, as well as those supporting them, were expulsed from the cathedral. They now became the 'Old Church faction', while the rebel army turned into the 'Current Church faction'.

That was when Mordin and Wymer were given the family name 'Yanos'.

The Yanos brothers included, the volunteers enlisted in the rebel army entered Dytiann Cathedral, in what had once been the Papal States. The civil war, however, had yet to be entirely suppressed. Another five years pa.s.sed, during which Mordin became the supreme commander of the armed forces, yet even after taking the cathedral, he continued to lead his troops to hunt for the remnants of the Old Church faction.

Wymer, the younger brother, whose skills were highly valued, had carried out the role he had been given as diplomat, tasked with hindering any southwards progression from the northern countries during this time of internal strife. He was at the forefront of things when the Church was being completely reorganised and was eventually able to seize the position of its leader, appearing all the while as though he had been pushed into it by the army volunteers.

As it would have seemed arrogant to call himself "pope" at that point in time, he went no further than "head archbishop".

Mordin, the older brother, as supreme commander of the army, and Wymer as head archbishop - it could be said that the Yanos brothers were, for all intents and purposes, the rulers of the Dytiann Alliance. Such was Dytiann.

After the events at Conscon Temple, the upper echelons looked for every possible way of avoiding a confrontation with Allion. If you put all of its territories together, Dytiann's power was considerable but even so, the civil war had only just subsided. Everyone in the higher levels of government recognised that it was still too early to take on such a truly powerful country as Allion.

After more than three months of exchanging letters and messengers, Allion's side finally showed signs of caving. It looked as though things had quietened down among Allion's hot-blooded, swaggering young warriors who had clamouring that "Dytiann must be destroyed".

Both sides would send envoys to talk with each other. The purpose was, of course, to build a road towards mutual reconciliation.

The meeting was to be held in Atall.

Now that a place and time had been announced, the eyes of its people were on Allion, so they would be doing things seriously. Dytiann would also need to send weighty representatives. But if they made a mistake in their negotiations, if they inadvertently made too many concessions, they might be branded as 'incompetent'. However, having said that, it they were too firm, they might cause the worst possible outcome: a war between two influential countries.

Who on earth should we send to this? Within the Church, opinions were in chaos.

From the residential area, with its rows of private houses, you had to cross a long bridge to enter Dytiann's cathedral.

In the past, the way to the cathedral had been made deliberately tortuous, and you had to cross over three separate bridges to enter. Moreover, tolls had been collected on each one of them. Not even the clergy was exempt.

The Yanos brothers had all of those bridges destroyed and replaced with this one long one. It was decorated at regular intervals with carvings of angels and saints. There had been plans to create images of the heroes who had risen to fame during the rebellion - although the present Church referred to it not as a 'rebellion', but as a 'crusade' - but these had been halted at Wymer's urging.

Bishop Baal was crossing the bridge, sitting astride a horse. His long hair was a colour that was close to grey, and his nose was aquiline. His figure was gaunt but, being a diocesan priest, he was known as a man of dignified demeanour. In fact, once upon a time, he was a man who exuded so much vigour that the other priests and deacons would hurriedly clear the way for him.

Now, however, after crossing the bridge and leaving his horse at the stable, Baal hunched his shoulders and concealed his face, as though wanting to hide himself from people's eyes. This was because the plan to send reinforcements to Conscon Temple had been drawn up at his suggestion. The idea had been to use the temple, as well as Atall if at all possible, to gain a foothold that would help them obstruct Allion's ambitions to the east. Yet when you looked at the actual results, Arthur Causebulk, the commander of the Sergaia Holy Rose Division, had been killed by an Allian general, and the upper echelons were racking their brains to find a way to repair relations with Allion.

It was hardly surprising that Baal's shoulders stooped.

Once he entered the church's precincts, he had the impression that he was being laughed at from every corner.

They say that Bishop Baal over there was acting like some great tactician when he made that suggestion.

Lord Mordin, who supported him, must also be feeling terribly disappointed. How dare he actually come here?

He felt like the monks who lowered their heads to him, the servants who treated him courteously, and even the little pages drawing water from the well were all hurling scorn at him behind his back.

Baal felt utterly wretched. At the same time, he was enraged at those who spent their time mocking and judging others without ever putting themselves in danger. And then, whenever he thought of Arthur's death, it was as though his grief was tearing him apart, limb from limb.

Shame. Anger. Sorrow. How many times had these emotions tormented Baal since Arthur's death? And although they whirled confusedly within him, in the end, they always blended into one and formed another, distinct emotion. Hatred. Or, to be more accurate, the urge to kill.

It was the same now.

Perhaps because the seething bloodl.u.s.t radiating from him was so easy to sense, the sneers and gazes turned towards him all receded at once. The hatred and murderous impulse that Baal was consumed by was not, however, turned against anyone in Dytiann.

Only one man's face was on his mind as he pa.s.sed by the side of the cathedral, walked on without stopping at buildings which looked like lodgings for pilgrims, and arrived at an edifice along the wall that seemed to be a private residence. He climbed the stairs, pa.s.sing by more monks as he did so, and arrived at Mordin's office.

The door had been left open. There were several guards on either side, and when they saw Baal, their expressions turned sour and their eyes signalled to him to "wait a bit".

He soon understood why, as a scathing voice could be heard from inside.

It was definitely not that of Mordin Yanos, and belonged instead to his younger brother, Wymer. Since that voice could occasionally be heard addressing someone as "Brother", it was unmistakably Mordin that Wymer was one-sidedly lecturing.

Really not a good time… An annoyed expression flitted across Baal's face, but since the two de facto rulers of Dytiann were in the middle of a discussion, he could not enter. He stayed waiting outside for a while.

Simply from hearing that voice, Baal could clearly picture what the two of them looked like right now. Since he had long served a domain lord - after the success of the rebellion, the troops that lord had lead were given the name of 'Sergaia Holy Rose Division' - Baal himself had joined the rebel army, and had met the Yanos brothers almost immediately after doing so.

Even though the brothers could roughly be described as the older being a warrior and the younger an intellectual, in terms of height, the younger was also the taller of the two. From the top of that great height, he was berating his older brother in that ever shrill and piercing voice of his. Said older brother was probably deeply ensconced in his chair, with his arms folded and his eyes shut as he remained silent. Mordin Yanos was known to be a taciturn man. He never spoke any more than was absolutely necessary. And, of course, he never spoke a single word in joke, so it was said that even those serving closest to him had never even seen him smile.

"When we won the Holy War and had to present a new model for the Church faction, it was utterly preposterous that your wife was a pagan. Why won't she be baptised?" Wymer kept coming back to the same thing.

Mordin gave no reply.

"And anyway, having her celebrate pagan ceremonies is a real problem. You already have two daughters with that woman. Could you please try to look at things from a wider perspective? Brother, as supreme commander of the crusader army, you need a suitable wife. And by that, I mean someone who will be the first to kneel before G.o.d's teachings, who can serve as a role model for the people, and whom it would be suitable to call the mother of the nation. Don't tell me you don't already know that."

Once he was done delivering his repet.i.tive complaint, Wymer left the room. His archiepiscopal robes were embroidered with gold and silver thread and, having only just finished his solo performance, his skin was faintly glistening with sweat.

Wymer's eyes met Baal's for a brief moment. Although he was an archbishop, he was still only in his forties, so his age was not so different from Baal's. Yet with his great height, it felt as though he was lording it over the kneeling Baal from far above.

Although he had certainly seen him, Wymer completely ignored Baal's greeting.

"Oh, and one more thing," apparently, he still hadn't said enough, since he threw his high-pitched voice back into the room. "Recently, haven't you been gloating about how the people close to you have taken to calling you 'king'? No, I know that you've never called yourself that, but even so, Brother, you should be actively putting a stop to it. When others call me 'pope', I kneel with my forehead to the floor before them, and I would wear my knees to the bone in shame at having others unjustly suspect my intentions. Our Dytiann doesn't need a 'king'. You should be more than well enough aware of that."

After that, without sparing Baal a single glance, he left with the guards who had been waiting outside the room. The matter of Conscon Temple was something that Baal had suggested to Mordin, who had one-sidedly approved the plan, without consulting his younger brother. Right after that incident had ended in failure, Wymer had likewise gone to his brother's office, and, exactly as he had just done now, had sermonised him at length.

As far as Wymer was concerned, Baal was no more than a man who "does things that are completely uncalled for simply to toady up to my brother". As such, his stance was that he didn't need to pay any more attention to Baal than what was absolutely necessary.

Baal felt faintly angry, but he quickly corrected his expression and asked for Mordin's permission to enter the room. The only answer he received was a grunt.

Which indicated that permission had been granted.

Baal stepped into the room. Mordin was sitting in exactly the position that he had earlier pictured him as being in.

Mordin Yanos was a man who held countless t.i.tles of every rank throughout the lands of Dytiann, starting with Supreme Commander of the Crusader Army, Captain of the Church Cavalry, Bishop of the Church, and continuing up to being the domain lord of several regions. Yet his appearance seemed completely at odds with all those magnificent t.i.tles and the many glorious feats he was said to have accomplished during the 'Holy War'.

Those with malicious tongues claimed that, originally, his face was longer, but the Geblin tribe crushed it flat from top to bottom with their inhuman strength. His heavy eyelids made him look perpetually sleepy, his nose looked as though it had been squashed into the middle of his face after taking a blow from an iron ball, and his lips were thick and long.

On top of that, as I mentioned previously, he had a taciturn personality. Before Mordin rose to fame, those who met him would at first believe he was mute. Just what remote countryside does this b.u.mpkin come from? They say that in the northern lands, where the winter is harsh, there are villages of serfs who can barely understand human language - did he run away from there? Apparently, quite a few people imagined something along those lines.

When Baal offered him his greetings, Mordin nodded with another grunt. He sent a glance towards the private secretary who stood at his side, and the old man, who was as desiccated as a withered tree, brought over cups of wine. Baal only drank enough to just moisten his lips. The aroma was quite strong.

After that, Mordin continued to barely speak at all. Through who knew what kind of mutual understanding, every time Baal said something, the secretary would smoothly give a reply after receiving an eye signal from Mordin, whose expression barely changed throughout. This made him look all the more slow and stupid, but those within Dytiann - Baal included - who knew his personality were well aware that his appearance was deceiving.

Yet even Mordin raised his eyebrows slightly at the proposal that Baal put forward.

Even though Wymer had declared that he would be in charge of selecting who would attend the conference with Allion, Baal completely ignored this and announced that "I wish to go myself."

Moreover, he went even further and said -

"If at all possible, I would like you to come with me, Your Excellency."

The private secretary stayed quiet for a while, and instead, it was Mordin himself who answered in his somewhat hoa.r.s.e voice -

"To Atall?"

"To Atall," Baal nodded vigorously. "As I have written in several letters, the enemy we now most urgently need to confront is not Allion. The only target we should be focusing on is Atall. They are enemies to G.o.d, who schemed against us and used Allion to bring Arthur to his death. Because of that, we need at all cost to avoid any kind of strain in our relationship with Allion. Your Excellency, we are weak and need your help."

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Tales Of Leo Attiel ~Portrait Of The Headless Prince~ Volume 3 Chapter 1 summary

You're reading Tales Of Leo Attiel ~Portrait Of The Headless Prince~. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Sugihara Tomonori, 杉原 智則. Already has 223 views.

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